False alarms cost fire service £1.5m last year
RESPONDING to false alarms in the Borders cost the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) an estimated £1.5m in 2015/16.
Firefighters attended no fewer than 791 such call-outs in the region in the 12 months to March 31.
To put that in context, over the same period the brigade dealt with 109 dwelling fires, 100 deliberately-started fires, mostly involving wood, scrub, refuse and stray bales, and 107 road traffic collisions.
And although the false alarm total represents a reduction on the 905 incidents recorded in 2014/15, councillors will hear today (Friday) that they “continue to be an unacceptable drain on public service expenditure”.
The Police, Fire & Rescue and Safer Communities Board will also hear that of the 791 call-outs, the vast majority (566 or 72%) were down to “equipment failure”, with the highest number of these (104) recorded in Galashiels and District and the lowest (25) in Kelso and District.
In the Tweeddale West ward there were 84 equipment failure calls (down from 93 on the previous year), while the figure was 30 (28) in Tweeddale East.
Although 190 of the unnecessary call-outs in the past year were discovered to be “false alarms with good intent”, the balance of 35 incidents was deemed “malicious”.
In a report to the board, Steve Gourlay, the SFRS group manager (prevention and protection) for Mid/East Lothian and the Scottish Borders, says it is a priority of his organisation to reduce the number of unwanted fire alarm signals (UFAS) triggered by faulty alarm systems.
Mr Gourlay states: “Using the estimated cost of £1,970 per incident, the cost to the SFRS in the Borders is in excess of £1.5m…it is clear this continues to be an unacceptable drain on public service resources.
“In the UK, estimated losses of £1billion a year have been attributed to false alarms, largely due to the disruption and loss of productivity to businesses.
“It is also widely recognised that false alarms reduce public confidence in fire alarms and can lead to complacency that may increase risk due to delays in taking action.”
Mr Gourlay will tell the board that a policy aimed a reducing UFAS incidents had been rolled out in the Borders in December 2014. This had involved firefighters and safety enforcement officers, based in Galashiels, engaging directly with stakeholders and advising them of actions they can take to reduce incidents.
However, he reveals that, since then, the SFRS has been conducting an internal review.
“On completion of that review, a UFAS action plan will be prepared to cover the Scottish Borders,” says Mr Gourlay.
“This will take account of any changes, training requirements and specific actions necessary to reduce UFAS incidents, meeting the needs of the SFRS and the communities and businesses in the region.”